Humans have always pursued happiness. In my work as a Holistic Health & Lifestyle Coach, I work with individuals and families to achieve goals, cope/overcome hardship, and improve mental, spiritual, and physical health. Essentially, my work boils down to helping my clients be healthier and happier.
Happiness looks different for each person and comes and goes.
Muslims believe their ultimate purpose in life is to serve God. Serving God isn’t limited to traditional means of worship like prayer and fasting. While these are crucial, in Islam also teaches that Muslims are rewarded for their character, charity, and even making someone smile. This life as a temporary transitory life, with the ultimate destination being the afterlife.
In order to resolve a problem, it is essential to understand its barriers and root causes. In this article, I’ll be sharing four barriers to happiness. You can use this to reflect on your life, so you can overcome obstacles that may be preventing you from feeling happier more often.
Barrier #1) Comparing ourselves to others
For the first time in history, knowing intricate details about the lives of others is only a few clicks away. While social media has many benefits, it also can lead us to compare our inner worlds to the outer polished worlds of others. Even when it is the truth, social media offers a curated highlight reel of others’ lives. Sometimes it isn’t even the truth, but rather completely staged false image.
It’s very easy to compare our lives to other people. That’s why it’s so essential for us to be mindful and ready to remember that we’re right where we need to be. Comparison is part of many family/ethnic cultures. Parents compare siblings, cousins, friends. While the intention may be good, it’s not very healthy mentally.
Islamic solution to comparing ourselves to others:
Two very important concepts in Islam are praise (hamd) and thankfulness (shukr). Islam encourages believers to be grateful through acknowledging thankfulness and praise to the Provider (God).
Comparison is a natural human phenomenon that God Himself placed within us. With that being said, He also gave us free will and consciousness to own our life and actions. We live in a fast-paced culture that glorifies comparing ourselves to others and discounts counting our own blessings.
“If you count Allah’s (God’s) favors, you will not be able to number them” (Qur’an 14:34)
Barrier #2) Being stuck in stagnation without progress
Meeting goals isn’t what makes us happy. It’s growth, excitement, nuance, and progress that brings us joy.
Feeling stuck strips us of happiness. Here are some examples:
- Breaking promises to ourselves
- Not pursuing what we want
- Paralysis by perfectionism
Islamic solution to being stuck:
Islam rewards consistent deeds higher than once in a blue moon larger hoorahs. Humans are always looking for shortcuts (ex: fastest way to transforming physique, get rich quick). Often, shortcuts don’t take curveballs and setbacks into consideration. It’s natural to want shortcuts, instant results, and less “waiting” time. Ironically, the quickest shortcut is taking small consistent steps towards goals.
Barrier #3: Chasing inauthentic goals
Humans chase goals that aren’t right for many reasons (family or peer pressure, or lack of proper assessment).
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make friends/family happy or following someone else’s model. We can do that and still be happy, so long as it rings true for us.
Islamic solution to live authentically:
Islam promotes authenticity and gives believers courage to stand out and go against the grain when it’s valuable to do so. It’s not just about blazing your own trail for the sake of it. Islam highly encourages unity and tradition. Believers are encouraged to develop wisdom so that they can develop discernment on a case by case basis (i.e. when it’s good to follow the crowd and when it’s best to stand up for truth even if you’re standing alone).
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was reported to have said: “Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers.” (Sahih Muslim)
This narration gives Muslims the strength and courage to know we aren’t here to blend in and live robotically.
Barrier #4: Resisting fate
Life is full of curveballs. The relationship between God’s decree and free will is a very delicate balance.
Examples of things we cannot control include:
- Perceptions others have of us
- Other people’s actions
When we resist fate and put a front up because things didn’t go our way, we will be a lot less happy.
Islamic solution to resisting fate:
In Islam, we have a concept of “tying or camel and leaving the rest to God.” Essentially this means doing everything in our control and then letting go.
A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I untie her and trust in Allah?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Tie her and trust in Allah.” (Tirmidhi)
Believers must have reliance on God. Even the best of believers lose sight of this sometimes, because we are human. Islam is all about reminders and highly values our human nature.
Here’s a verse from the Qur’an on relying on God:
“And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.” Qur’an 65:3
By reflecting on these barriers and trying the suggested solutions, you can invite more happiness into your life.
Remember: it’s okay to be down sometimes. The Qur’an is incredibly validating of the full human experience and a range of emotions. Perhaps the largest misconception most people have is that that worldly happiness is a destination. Happiness is never a destination in this world, rather it is a feeling. The sooner we realize that, the more often we can feel it.